Saturday, May 27, 2023

Living in the Past... or the Present?

I am in the process of helping with a 65th anniversary of my elementary school.  Part of this celebration will be an alumni reunion for graduates of the school.  When explaining how I keep busy, several friends have asked in several different ways:

  • Why are you interested in the past?
  • What do you have to talk about?
  • Isn't this strange to relive grade school years?

I do admit it is unusual, but I don't find it strange... and there is plenty to talk about... that is not in the past!

What gets your attention?
(Photo:  Parochial School "clicker")

One amusing example: everyone from a certain age group in my school wants to know what happened to the "clickers"!  Now, on the surface, this could be seen as sharing old memories from the past.  The clicker was an instrument the religious sisters would use to get our attention.  When dealing with 35-40 energetic students (with no classroom aides), the Sisters would "click" this wood-and-rubber-band device and everyone would stop and look... and, without raising their voices, our teachers would calmly explain the lesson of that day.  (I do know from some classmates that the "clicker" sometimes inhabited their nightmares!)

What I find interesting about this memory is how I learned to pay attention... and how, to this day, I stop when a certain sound happens... a click!

What gets your attention?
(Photo: variegated rose - Larry Gardepie)

It's that connection of past to present that intrigues me: the ability to stop and pay attention; the awareness that past values still influence us today; that curiosity and wonder started when I tried to figure out how the clicker worked... and why energetic, young children would stop so suddenly.  (My elementary school experiences were not with wooden rulers or erasers thrown at you... horror stories I have heard from others... but a "clicker.")

For me, why do I stop when I see a beautiful flower or a sunset?  Once I slow down and pay attention, the memory lingers and becomes part of me: connections of past and present!

What gets your attention?
(Photo: Champagne Waterfall - Larry Gardepie)

Why am I interested in the past?  That question is almost like asking if the glass is half empty or half full.  For me, it's not about the contents in the glass.  Rather, it starts with gratitude that I have a glass... and then, the hope that the glass will be filled up again!

The past informs who I am in the present.  It's about understanding connections... and reconnecting.  It's about understanding what is happening in this crazy, chaotic world right now by looking back at who I was and what I learned to value.  It's about how I learned to pay attention, and what gets my attention now.

May we discover anew this week:  who we were; who we are; and who we are becoming.  Let's reconnect!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Smiles... Have You Checked Your Eyes Lately?

Ever noticed people's smiles?  I am sure we all do!  Since we were infants, we learned to watch the faces of our parents and others, looking for acceptance and recognition.  We learned to observe and interpret very young.

That's why I have become interested in people's facial expressions: smiles, frowns, worried furrows, and joy.  So much is expressed to us non-verbally about safety, acceptance, warmth, pain, and love.

What do you see in a friend's face?
(Photo credit: Using Data Science to Tell Which of
These People is Lying
, University of Rochester)

Have you noticed that some people have a perpetual smile on their face whereas other people's expressions shift depending on the situation?  Smiles are wonderful -- don't get me wrong! -- but I've always wondered about people who always smile!  What are they hiding?!

I read something interesting recently, how neuroscience is reviewing the connection between facial expressions and the eyes -- especially when eyes and smiles don't match up.

How have you learned to show that you are happy?
(Photo credit: "Smiling Eyes" Likely Don't Signify
True Happiness After Al
l, Carnegie Mellon)

I wonder if this is the disconnect I feel when I encounter someone who is always smiling: maybe the eyes are telling me a different story than the smile?

And, just like the lessons learned as a child to watch facial expressions to feel approval or acceptance, maybe there are other learned behaviors that we have never considered or discussed... disconnects in what we say and do.

Can you align your facial expression with your thoughts?
(Photo credit:  How to Smile with the Eyes, WikiHow)

While going through youth ministry training years ago, one of our mentors would tell us, "If you are happy, tell your face!"  Integrity -- the ability to align our mind and body, thoughts and feelings, espoused values and actual values.  Sometimes we need others to ask about these disconnects.  Sometimes we need to reveal what is happening behind the smile.

Our challenge this week is awareness:  noticing the disconnects in our lives -- when we smile but don't mean it; when verbals and non-verbals are not aligned; when we have not checked our eyes and smile.  If you are happy, tell your eyes!


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Feeling Boxed In?

Have you ever felt trapped -- or "boxed in"?  Recently, I read an article and watched a video about the difference between cats and dogs when it comes to boxes.  Cats are attracted to boxes: the confined space provides a sense of safety, security, and warmth.  For dogs, as social animals, the box separates or isolates them from their "pack."

I wondered about these differences and times when I have felt trapped by:

  • Social constraints or stereotypes;
  • Past mistakes or missteps;
  • Friends and neighbors not respecting social boundaries; and,
  • Deadlines or projects that restrict my freedom.
Do you find comfort by how you are defined?
(Photo: credit:  5 Reasons Why Cats Love
Cardboard Boxes
, YuMove)

ach situation is unique: under some conditions, we may feel safe and derive comfort -- people know us because of our history and relationships; other circumstances may make us feel isolated or alone -- people misunderstand and confine us to unproven or outdated conclusions. We sit and stare in disbelief as as are left behind.

How do you define yourself?
(Photo credit:  Take the Great Box Challenge and
Strengthen Your Bond with Your Dog
, American Kennel Club)

I came across another video, Don't Put People in Boxes (click on the link to watch).  Though this video is Christian-based -- which could be a box for some people or isolate others -- the message warns us about the effects of boxing people in:  that is, when we limit our relationships, we are defined by Us and Them; we become separated and defensive; we protect our way of being at the exclusion of others.

By changing the questions -- or trying to find better questions, we begin to see ourselves through the lens of We with:
  • The same or similar experiences.
  • The ability to encourage and support.
  • The realization that each person has Sacred Worth and Value.

When have you felt separated from others?
(Photo credit:  Don't Put People in Boxes, NewHope Church)

Therefore, the challenge for us when we feel boxed in, separated or isolated is to change the questions that we ask ourselves and others:
  • What experiences do I (We) have in common?
  • How can I (We) encourage and support?
  • Do I (We) see the other person as Sacred?
Please let me know if (when) I box you in.  Let's get to know one another -- as we are:  Sacred and Valued!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Undying Roles

Tributes.  Condolences.  Memories.  Undying respect, admiration and love.  These were the words and sentiments that swirled around us as we learned of the death of our elementary school principal.  She was one of those positive forces in the world who encouraged, challenged, and inspired us to become better people.  Her role as teacher and principal transitioned as we graduated and set out on further education, made career choices, raised families, and became global citizens.  She became our mentor and friend -- always present and ready to listen... until she wasn't.

I have been thinking about roles and responsibilities this week:

  • What we take on;
  • How we inspire and encourage; and,
  • The impact we have on others.

Who is at the center of your life?
(Photo: Flower Arrangement - Larry Gardepie)

Life presents challenges.  Sister Barbara demonstrated how to accept, smile, and look for the positive.  Even this last year when she was battling health issues, she planned for the future -- an alumni reunion in September.
Choice was a word used often with her:  we can choose how to respond to the back-ups in life; we can take the road less traveled; we can set out and explore new ways of being present.

Which is a better choice for you?
(Photo:  Traffic Jam in Victoria,
British Columbia - Larry Gardepie)

Though busy and working into her late 80s, she had time to sit and listen.  What a gift:  to have someone listen to you, ask questions, and help clarify the choices!  Perspectives changed as we shared what was happening or on our minds:  what was burdensome and tiresome was transformed; life became reinvigorated; energy was found to climb to the mountaintop -- we wanted to see beyond what was happening now.
Having a mentor-friend and being a mentor-friend to others are two different roles:  both are important; both respect the infinite loop of giving-and-taking.  We become the ones wanting to listen and ask questions.

Do you have time to sit and listen?
(Photo: Park Bench near Empress Hotel,
British Columbia - Larry Gardepie)

Dialogue asks that we understand our impact on a situation:  how our role as parent or sibling, lover or friend, supervisor or co-worker, spiritual advisor or mentor affects what is said or perceived.  Dialogue also invites us to sit on that park bench... with Beauty Surrounding... waiting for someone to sit with us... listening, asking questions, and influencing one another with time and Sacred Presence!

Do you have time to sit and listen?  As Sister Barbara would say, "You have a choice!"

Thank you to all of the Mothers and Sisters who have nurtured, inspired, and challenged us.  Your roles are important!  Happy Mother's Day (next Sunday)!


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)